Gathering Theme: Dispelling the Misconceptions about Indigenous People

Gathering Theme

Dispelling the Myths About Indigenous People

Opening common to all gatherings

Presentation of the theme

(The majority of this document comes from a publication “Indigenous Workforce Participation Initiative,” Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1998, with updates from Statistics Canada, and from “Indigenous Strong, Manitoba Strong: Indigenous contributions to the Manitoba Economy” (2019). The publication is very consistent with other similar documents, such as the 2012 publication by TD Bank called “Debunking 10 myths surrounding Canada’s Indigenous population.”)

Many misconceptions about Indigenous peoples in Canada are based on stereotyping and lack of information. These misconceptions have serious consequences and are often at the root of racism and discrimination that Indigenous peoples continue to experience today. For employers, ongoing misconceptions about Indigenous peoples can adversely impact the effectiveness of their Indigenous workforce participation initiatives.

Dispelling the misconceptions and myths is one step towards building relationships based on mutual respect and trust. Here are 10 common misconceptions about Indigenous peoples, along with factual information that will help to dispel them.

  1. MYTH: All Indigenous peoples are the same.

The Facts:

  • The Indigenous population is very diverse:
  • It is composed of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples – each with a different history, culture and society.
  • In Canada today there are 11 major language families with over 50 forms. Some Indigenous languages are as different as Spanish is from Japanese.
  • Indigenous peoples live in many different parts of Canada -in geographically diverse locations such as urban centres, rural communities and remote locations. As of 2016, half of Status Indians live in urban areas.
  • There are 63 Reserves in Manitoba, 207 in Ontario.
  • Not all Indigenous people do pow wows, potlatches, smudges or sweats.

 

  1. MYTH: Indigenous peoples have always had the same rights as others in Canada.

The Facts:

  • Only recently have Indigenous peoples begun to obtain the same rights as other people in Canada.
  • In 1880, an amendment to the Indian Act provided for automatic loss of status of any Indian who earned a university degree

or any Indian woman who married a non-Indian or an unregistered Indian. Loss of status was not officially repealed until 1985.

  • In 1884, an amendment to the Indian Act instituted prison sentences for anyone participating in potlatch, or other traditional Indigenous ceremonies.
  • Indigenous people were denied their right to organize politically.
  • Amendments to the Indian Act in 1927 made it illegal for First Nations people or communities to hire lawyers or bring about land claims against the government without the government’s consent.
  • Registered First Nations peoples only obtained the right to vote in 1960.
  • The Nisga’a Treaty was only ratified in 2000. It is the first modern-day treaty in B.C. and it served as a model for many First nations seeking self-government and modern treaties in Canada.
  • In 2016, The Supreme Court declared that Métis (and non-status Indians) must be considered “Indians” in the Constitution and thereby fall under federal jurisdiction. This did not include remedial action, but in conjunction with agreements with provincial governments, this opens the door for Métis rights and land claims.

 

  1. MYTH: Indigenous peoples are responsible for their current situation.

The Facts: Many factors have contributed to the situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada:

  • Prior to European contact, Indigenous societies were strong and self-sufficient.
  • While Indigenous peoples were never conquered, the process of colonization resulted in complete loss of control and dependency. For example:
  • According to article 32 (1) of the Indian Act “a transaction of any kind whereby a band or a member thereof purported to sell, barter, exchange, give or otherwise dispose of cattle of cattle,,, grain,… or plants or their products from a reserve.. to a person other than a member of that band, is void unless the superintendent approves of the transaction in writing.”
  • Policies of displacement and assimilation (e.g., residential schools and banning of potlatch) deprived Indigenous peoples of their traditional, social, economic and political powers.
  • Indigenous peoples are now re-establishing control through a process of healing, negotiation and partnership.
  • The Pass system, in place for over 60 years until its repeal in 1941, required written permission from the Indian agent for a person to leave a reserve, to fish, hunt, sell their crops, get married, etc. The pass indicated why they were allowed to be absent, for how long and whether or not they could carry a gun.

 

  1. MYTH: Indigenous peoples have a lot of money.

The Facts:

  • Indigenous individuals have lower incomes than others in Canada:
  • In 2010, the median income for Indigenous peoples was $20,000—compared to $27,600 median income for the rest of Canadians. While income disparity between Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canadians narrowed slightly in a decade, at this rate it would take 63 years for the gap to be erased.
  • Although Indigenous incomes rise with increased education, even highly educated Indigenous people still face a considerable income gap relative to non-Indigenous people.

 

  1. MYTH: Indigenous peoples have everything paid for; they don’t have to pay for their housing, education or medical expenses.

The Facts: Certain services are paid for. What these are, and who they are for, is defined by statute or agreement:

  • Registered First Nations peoples have certain services paid for. These are part of the federal government’s as outlined in the Indian Act. Indigenous people did not ask for the Indian Act.
  • When a registered First Nations person leaves the community, access to these rights are limited. And as the federal government cuts spending, items admissible under these statutory obligations also diminish.
  • The national Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, now called Indigenous and Northern Affairs, provides certain services to the Inuit through its Indian and Inuit programs. The department funds services for these communities that other Canadians receive from their provincial or municipal governments. These services include education, social services and community infrastructure.
  • There is a strong link between education and income levels.
  • Only in 2016 was the annual cap of 2% increase in on-reserve funding for education ended.
  • In 2017, the Parliamentary Budget Office estimated the gap between on reserve schools and other schools in Canada is $665 million. That is even worse than in 2012, when the gap was $595 million.
  • Outside of the items defined by statute and agreement, Indigenous peoples pay their own expenses.

 

  1. MYTH: Indigenous peoples do not pay taxes.

The Facts: Personal tax exemption occurs only in confined cases. Indigenous peoples pay significant amounts of tax every year:

  • Inuit and Métis people always pay taxes.
  • First Nations peoples without status, and registered First Nations peoples living off-reserve, pay taxes like the rest of the country.
  • Registered First Nations peoples working off-reserve pay income tax, regardless of where they reside (even on-reserve).
  • Administrative costs incurred by registered First Nations peoples claiming tax exemption for off-reserve purchases under $500 discourage requests for reimbursement. In these cases, most registered First Nations peoples opt to pay the sales tax.
  • Registered First Nations peoples are sometimes exempted from paying personal taxes. Tax exemption is part of the federal government’s statutory obligation as outlined in the Indian Act.
  • There are many taxes beyond personal income taxes: income taxes on corporations, and unincorporated businesses, federal and provincial sales taxes, and federal excise taxes. Based on 2016 data, Indigenous people contributed over $230 million in taxes annually (57% federal and 43% provincial).

 

  1. MYTH: Indigenous peoples cannot interface with, or adapt to, life in the mainstream.

The Facts: Indigenous peoples have extensive and effective relationships with the rest of Canadian society.

  • Indigenous peoples attend, and graduate from, a wide range of colleges and universities.
  • There are over 40,000 businesses owned and operated by Indigenous people in Canada. There are 706 in Manitoba.
  • Indigenous businesses are estimated to have spent $6,011 million in 2016. This spending contributed $1,121 million to Manitoba’s GDP, 13,688 jobs and labout income of $6.4 million.
  • Indigenous businesses form joint ventures (and other business arrangements) with non-Indigenous businesses.
  • The Indigenous economy is the second largest component of the major industries in Canada
    • Agriculture = 5.3%
    • Indigenous =3.9%
    • Manufacturing =2.7%
    • Accommodations and food industry = 2.7%
    • Mining, oil and gas = 2.0%
  • The Indigenous component contributes $9.3 billion to the Manitoba economy annually
  • Of all self-employed Indigenous people in Canada, women make up 37%, and even 51% of Indigenous small– and medium-sized enterprises are owned in whole or in part by Indigenous women; 

 

  1. MYTH: Indigenous peoples do not have a good work ethic; they have high rates of turnover and absenteeism. They are “lazy.”

The Facts: Indigenous peoples are skilled, productive and reliable employees who are valued by their employers:

  • Indigenous peoples participate extensively in work-oriented education and training programs.
  • Indigenous peoples are valued as stable, reliable employees who contribute in many ways to corporate performance.
  • Flexible work arrangements may be established to allow Indigenous peoples to pursue their traditional ways, the timing of which differs from statutory holidays.
  • There are 71,440 First Nations people employed in Southern Manitoba, and 16,000 in the North.
  • There are 92,800 Indigenous people in Winnipeg (2016 census). In the 2015 survey of homelessness in Winnipeg, there were about 1,400. Almost 800 were Indigenous. Where are the other 92,000 Indigenous people? Working, at home caring for their children, volunteering, etc.

 

  1. MYTH: There are no qualified Indigenous peoples to hire.

The Facts: Indigenous peoples have the education, skills and expertise required for jobs in all economic sectors:

  • Almost one-half (48.4%) of Indigenous people had a postsecondary qualification in 2011, including 14.4% with a trades certificate, 20.6% with a college diploma, 3.5% with a university certificate or diploma below the bachelor level, and 9.8% with a university degree. (In comparison, almost two-thirds (64.7%) of the non-Indigenous population aged 25 to 64 had a postsecondary qualification in 2011.)
  • Indigenous peoples work in many occupations. First Nations peoples work in all parts of the Manitoba economy
    • 20% healthcare and social assistance
    • 13% education
    • 11% public administration
    • 10% construction
    • 10% retail trade
  • A young and growing Indigenous population represents an opportunity for economic development in Canada, and even more so in Manitoba. The growing cadre of young Indigenous people represents a supply of new workers, entrepreneurs and professionals.
  • Many services are available to help employers find qualified Indigenous employees.

 

  1. MYTH: Hiring Indigenous peoples is a form of reverse discrimination.

The Facts: Hiring Indigenous peoples is part of a strategy to develop a representative workforce:

  • A representative workforce strategy means that all groups are represented – those who are part of the majority population as well as those who are in minorities—reflecting the make-up of the country or of the population surrounding work areas.
  • Measures to increase Indigenous workforce participation are not designed to favour one group over another. They are designed to increase access to employment vacancies and promote equitable opportunity for all groups.
  • Provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (as well as provincial and territorial statutes) permit employers to take special measures to achieve the equitable representation of Indigenous peoples and other groups in the workforce.

Our “Resources” section of our website provides a direct link to the full 2019 report on Indigenous contributions to the Manitoba Economy.

Discussion, passing the talking stick

Closing common to all gatherings

Gathering Theme: Treaties – Our Nation to Nation Partnerships

Dr. Tricia Logan

GATHERING THEME

Treaties: Our Nation to Nation Partnerships

 Opening common to all gatherings.

Treaty making processes are sacred, legal and ceremonial events which involved many, but not all First Nations or Indigenous communities across Canada. Treaties in Canada were signed before Confederation (1867), after confederation and in the ‘modern’ era, including treaties signed since 1975. From a First Nations perspective, Treaty making involves sacred ceremonies and a tripartite deal between the First Nation, the colonial representative and the Creator. Treaties did not “surrender or cede land”, they are considered sacred agreements between Nations which covered more than just a “transfer” of territory. Histories of treaties in Canada are complex. They are living documents that continue today to influence legal struggles and decisions over rights as well as land.

Various First Nations communities and nations across Turtle Island (North America) and Canada had and have existing traditions and laws that govern land rights and what would be considered in European law as “human rights”. Ceremonies often include Wampum Belts, pipe ceremonies or an exchange of gifts. A Wampum Belt is typically made from round clam shells often formed into beads and woven with threads. The belt of Wampum is a symbol of peace and often signaled an invitation or start to a meeting between nations. Wampum can also represent an individual’s qualifications or influence. Treaties, agreements and oral histories are signified with use of Wampum in Canadian First Nations including the Haudenosaunee and Onondaga. Records of these laws and ceremonies still circulate and are used today in First Nations communities through oral histories and they date back to times of earliest contact with Europeans and before contact. Knowledge of these ceremonies and agreements are passed on through several generations.

It is important to remember that Indigenous nations view land differently than European traditions and philosophies. The European beliefs in private property and land ownership did not translate well into Indigenous languages or world views. Treaty making did not consider how First Nations and Indigenous peoples established their relationships to the land and how sacred that relationship was and is.

Indigenous groups throughout Turtle Island and Canada often entered into agreements over land, hunting or fishing and trade prior to the arrival of Europeans. After arrival of European colonizers and church missionaries between the 1500s and 1600s First Nations and European traders forged relationships for trade and ending early conflicts.

Royal Proclamation 1763

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was issued by King George III of England and “ownership” of North America was granted to Britain. The Royal Proclamation is still broadly considered an important document that represents the historic relationship between Indigenous peoples and Europeans in Canada. The Royal Proclamation states clearly that the title Indigenous people have to the land had always existed and continues to exist after the Proclamation. The proclamation is referenced in section 25 of the Constitution Act of 1982. This provision dictates that nothing in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms diminishes Aboriginal peoples’ rights as expressed in the Royal Proclamation. This reference to the proclamation in the Constitution Act assures that its interpretation will remain an important part of any attempt to clarify Aboriginal rights in Canadian law. The foundation for establishing and negotiating treaties is often considered to be laid out in the Royal Proclamation.

Myth about Treaties:
It is a myth that all treaties look the same and all the First Nations that signed treaties are similar. The 11 “numbered treaties” (1870-1921) are often what we refer to when we consider that “we are all treaty people”, but there are treaties that pre-dated the numbered treaty era. Here are some of them.

1725-1779 Atlantic Peace and Friendship Treaties

Focused on settling peace and trade relationships, treaties were signed between the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and other First Nations1, and the British in territories covering Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, the Gaspé region of Québec and Nova Scotia. There were no surrenders of land or rights made to the British by First Nations during the Atlantic treaty-making processes. The treaties were necessary because the Indigenous groups had been primarily aligned with France and French settlers. The transfer of territory to Britain lead to violence between 1725-1779, often directed to Indigenous groups in the region. They sought peace as well as hunting and fishing rights and safety in their territories. Peace and Friendship Treaties in the Maritime Povinces still provide context and a legal basis for Indigenous rights to land, hunting and fishing in the territory.

Manitoba Act (1870)

Métis in Manitoba and Western Canadian provinces often consider the agreements made with Canada in the creation of the Province of Manitoba as the first treaty signed with Indigenous peoples in the West. The creation of Manitoba in 1870 pre-dated the signing of Treaty #1in 1871. Métis citizens led by Louis Riel and a prominent Métis council (1870) fought to preserve Métis rights to education, language and land in the province of Manitoba. Métis were granted land through certificates called “scrip.” The Métis fought the government of Canada until 2013 for adequate compensation promised to them in the original Manitoba Act and the distribution of scrip. The scrip process was unlawfully administered and like land agreements across Canada, signed with Indigenous nations, the agreements were not addressed fairly to the Métis. Land was quite often sold to land surveyors for a fraction of the value or was simply taken from Métis using dishonest methods of land transfer.

Today, at public events, talks or sporting events when we acknowledge that we are on Treaty territory and where applicable, the Homeland of the Métis, we acknowledge these early agreements like the Manitoba Act and the creation of the Métis Settlements of Alberta (1935).

Numbered Treaties (1871-1921)

Treaties are not a fixed description of the promises made or the promises broken. They are relevant, living documents and no two treaties contain the same provisions or agreements. Treaties numbered 1 to 11 were signed between 1871 and 1921 and cover areas in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northern British Columbia, portions of Northwest Territories and some of the Yukon Territory.

By 1871 First Nations and Métis economic, political and legal systems and structures were already facing a rapid decline and loss in Western Canada. After the devastating loss of buffalo and their existing economic systems after Confederation, many First Nations were provided few options to protect their lands, economies and communities during this period of colonization and Confederation. The first six treaties pre-date the introduction of the Indian Act and many First Nations in Treaty 1-6 territories consider the agreements in the Treaties to be the original terms of their agreements with Canada, before the Indian Act further constrained their rights and movements.

Agreements and promises in the numbered treaties included provisions for land ‘ownership’ and control over education on Reserves, agricultural equipment, hunting and fishing, treaty payments and certain goods for each Reserve. The unmet expectations and broken promises that followed the making of the treaties are notorious in Canadian history.

A prominent myth that still exists about residential schools, education and treaties relies on the promises that government made to build schools on Reserves. It is true that “treaties requested and promised education.” However, like many promises made by government in treaty relationships, what was promised and what was delivered as education did not meet agreements or expectations. The level of education, neglect, abuse, death and aggressive assimilation provided in residential schools was not agreed upon in treaties. Similarly, the treaty money each person receives in the amount of $5.00, is still collected and distributed but it is the original amount promised, never adjusted for rates of inflation.

Modern-Day Treaties (1975-present)

The Government of Canada currently recognizes 24 modern-era post-confederation treaties that are not included as the original post-1867 “numbered treaties”. These modern treaties are also referred to often as ‘comprehensive land claim agreements’. Based on land and resources that were not covered by the original numbered treaties, negotiations started in the early 1970s to provide access and protection to lands and rights not covered in any previous agreements. Many of these agreements included First Nations, Inuit as well as Métis peoples. Treaties, including the modern comprehensive claims are protected by the constitution. Modern claims and negotiations also sought and continue to seek an end to ambiguous language in original agreements and include provisions for allowing self-governance.

These comprehensive land claims agreements include areas in Quebec, Nunavut, the Yukon, Alberta, Labrador, and British Columba.2 There are a number of still unsettled land claims.

Nation-to-Nation

Today, the numbered treaties and the modern treaties represent an important relationship between First Nations and the rest of Canada. It is agreed and understood that Treaties provide a foundation for a nation-to-nation partnership. The idea that “We are all Treaty People” stems from the recognition of this partnership and in part, acknowledges that Indigenous nations hold nationhood. Decades or even centuries would pass where First Nations, Métis and Inuit would fight and protest for their rights to be seen as ‘nations’. Acknowledging that we are “All Treaty People” and that there is a nation-to-nation partnership not only acknowledges the partnership but it supports Indigenous sovereignty and their right to stand alone as their own Nations.

Not all First Nations are party to treaties in Canada and, and in those cases, their lands fall outside of treaty areas. First Nations, Métis and Inuit are defined as “Aboriginal peoples” under Section 35 of the Constitution Act (1982), but not all of these Aboriginal groups are included in Treaties with Canada.

Myth about Treaties:

All “Indians” or Indigenous peoples receive a free education or free houses as a result of treaties.

It is true that many treaties provide education and schools for First Nations peoples who fall under treaty. Many are still excluded though, those who are not party to treaties. Also, many First Nations pay taxes, and tuition to attend university.

In 2018 there are still First Nations communities in Canada that do not have adequate, “safe and comfy” schools for children. Rights to an education promised in many treaties still have not been met in all areas of Canada.3

Myth: Decolonization and treaty processes mean that newcomers or settlers need to “give their land back”

It is important to acknowledge the treaty relationship on the territory we are on today. That recognition fosters decolonization and recognizes that non-Indigenous settlers and newcomers benefit from living on the land shared with Indigenous peoples. Treaties describe the legal relationship and Indigenous peoples’ rights but none of these legal, historic and sacred agreements ask for anyone to “go back” or cede private property, or move away.

Myth: Treaties are historic documents

Treaties, while sometimes written over 100 or 200 years ago are very living partnerships and relevant documents today. Canadians are asked to learn about treaties and engage with Indigenous communities, embracing “We are all Treaty” people in an effort to better understand the partnership we have on shared land. Treaties represented promises made to Indigenous Nations and, to many people, represent promises that were simply not kept. It is important to remember that these are contemporary and historic documents that document the ways Canadians share the land today.

Our Calls to Action

After the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada and the 7-volume final report 94 Calls to Action were presented to Canada and to Canadians. There are several Calls to Action that refer to our Treaty agreements.

Call to Action #94

94. We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following: I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.i

Let me try to summarize some key points.

  1. Treaties are the legal basis of many relationships with Indigenous people
  2. They have not been honoured in many respects
  3. Indigenous treaty makers understood they were sharing the land not giving it up.
  4. Treaties deal with more than land; they also deal with Indigenous human rights
  5. There are still treaties being made today
  6. The role of Oral History in proving Aboriginal claims is recognized by the courts.
  7. Many Aboriginal land claims are in fact resolved by negotiation and agreement, rather than by the courts.
  8. Clarification of Indigenous rights is still based on the Royal proclamation of 1763, which is Referenced in the Canadian Constitution Act of 1972.
  9. Indeed, we are all treaty people!

1 The Abenaki, Penobscot and the Passamaquoddy

 

2 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (1975); Northeastern Quebec Agreement (1978); Inuvialuit Final Agreement (1984); Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (1992); Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (1993); 11 Yukon First Nations Final Agreements (1993-2005); Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (1993); Nisga’a Final Agreement (2000); Tlicho Land Claims and Self Government Agreement (2003); Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement (2005); Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement (2008); Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement (2009); Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement (2010); and Maa-nulth Final Agreement (2011). (Source: Treaty Commission of Manitoba; http://www.trcm.ca/treaties/

 

3 See: Shannen’s Dream [ https://fncaringsociety.com/shannens-dream ]

iTreaty Commission of Manitoba; http://www.trcm.ca/treaties/

 National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, Calls to Action; http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf

Angus, Charlie, (2017) Children of the Broken Treaty: Canada’s Lost Promise and One Girl’s Dream, Regina, University of Regina Press.

Asch, Michael, (2014) On Being Here to Stay: Treaties and Aboriginal Rights in Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Battiste, Marie, ed., (2016) Living Treaties: Narrating Mi’kmaw Treaty Relations, Sydney: Cape Breton University Press.

Borrows, John and Michael Coyle (eds), (2017), The Right Relationship: Reimagining the Implementation of Historic Treaties, Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Borrows, John (2010), Canada’s Indigenous Constitution, Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Fenge, Terry and Jim Aldridge, (2015) Keeping Promises: The Royal Proclamation of 1763, Aboriginal Rights and Treaties in Canada, Montreal, Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press.

Macklem, Patrick and Douglas Sanderson, eds.,(2016)  From Recognition to Reconciliation: Essays on the Constitutional Entrenchment of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

McNeil, Kent and Lori Ann Roness, (2000) Legalizing Oral History: Proving Aboriginal Claims in Canadian Courts, Journal of the West, 39.3, 66-74.

Miller, J.R., (2009) Compact, Contract, Covenant: Aboriginal Treaty-Making in Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Monture-Angus, Patricia, (2000), Journeying Forward: Dreaming Aboriginal People’s Independence, Pluto Press, Australia

Nurse, Andrew “History, Law and the Mi’kmaq of Atlantic Canada,” Acadiensis vol. 33, no. 2 (2004).

Wicken, William C., (2012) The Colonization of Mi’kmaw Memory and History, 1794–1928: The King v. Gabriel Sylliboy, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Please go to our “Resources Section of our Website for:
Treaties and the Treaty Relationships. A special issue of Canada’s History, 2018.

Gathering Theme: Call to Business

GATHERING THEME

Indigenous Communities: An Opportunity for Business Hiding in Plain Sight
 

The title of our theme is a phrase borrowed from “Indigenous Works,”1 a national non-profit agency headquartered in Saskatoon that is focused on Indigenous employment.” The phrase is part of their report on a national study of businesses and their interest in partnerships with Indigenous companies. It seems like an appropriate description of what we wish to address today.

In our Circle, in the next few minutes we will do four things;

First, read Call to action # 92

Second; reflect on the key points of this call to action

Third: Ask, why should business care

Fourth; reflect on how to move forward

 

Then, with the use of a talking stick, we will share on how we might proceed or are already doing so.

1) First; let’s take a moment to read call to action # 92 (before beginning the circle, identify four people in the circle who can each read a paragraph)

We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:

  1. Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.
  2. Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.
  3.  Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

2) For those of you who have perhaps never read this before, let’s summarize this Call to Action. It addresses a number of dimensions under what the commission calls a “Reconciliation framework for applying the United Nations Declaration. It asks for

  • Meaningful consultations,
  • respectful relationships,
  • employment opportunities,
  • informed consent before moving to economic development projects,
  • access to jobs, training and educational opportunities,
  • benefits to aboriginal communities and not just to individuals,
  • education of management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples

3) What is level of involvement now

In 2016, Indigenous Works, the company we mentioned above, commissioned a national study of 500 large and medium sized businesses in Canada. The result reported that 85 percent of companies have no relationships with Indigenous people. Only 2% of corporations were committed partners.2 While the situation is slightly better on the prairies, Manitoba has the weakest engagement with Indigenous people of the three prairie provinces.

Nationally, the study found

  • Only half of the businesses wanted to do more business with Indigenous groups
  • Less than half were prioritizing hiring Indigenous people
  • Only a third of businesses considered investing in Indigenous communities as a priority

Why is this so? In the words of the companies themselves: about 20 reasons were given; for example:

Never thought of it”,

we need people with specific designations so that is our priority,”

not applicable to our business,”

we would if they reached out to us,”

never occurred to us,” etc.

Five key factors were identified as to why businesses did not consider such engagement;

  1. There are few indigenous people around our business, or if there are, we are unaware of them
  2. Indifference; that is, we don’t’ discriminate, but we don’t reach out
  3. There is limited value for us in being engaged
  4. We don’t really know the situation of Indigenous people very well
  5. It is costly to reach out, and we have limited capacity

4) Why should business care; the benefits

In October of 2017, Don Drummond, former senior economist with CIBC, now at McMaster University wrote that 52% of the future economic growth of Manitoba will depend upon Indigenous work force participation. So, independent of the moral responsibility one could raise, there are economic benefits for business. The Drummond report3 estimates that closing the gap would increase the size of the Canadian economy by $36.4 billion by 2031.

The research by Indigenous Works suggested some solutions.

Things that need to change:

  1. Businesses want to be approached directly by Indigenous groups
  2. Businesses need to see the employment and business potential
  3. Businesses need more experience and knowledge on how to do this
  4. Economic conditions and policies from government need to change

What supports do businesses need to change?

  1. Guidance from Indigenous groups
  2. Mentorship from experienced businesses
  3. Direction from third parties and from government
    1. On the government side, Drummond identifies several obstacles to be overcome;
      1. Lack of predictability in funding
      2. Currently there is greater focus on social service funding to the detriment of funding that addresses economic needs
      3. Lack of high speed broadband in many Indigenous communities
      4. Need for greater Indigenous autonomy

5) So how can businesses proceed?

Let’s back up just a bit. Perry Bellegarde, National Grand Chief stated recently in the Globe and Mail: “Before you try to build anything, build a respectful relationship.” The TRC reportTruth and Reconciliation Commission formed to redress the legacy of residential schools — stresses over and over that respectful relationships are the beginning of reconciliation. And the TRC argues this starts with knowing the Truth. The title of the final report of the TRC is called “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the future.” A business man commented; why worry about the past, let’s just move on to the future.” The TRC refutes that. If we don’t honor the truth of the past, we will never have reconciliation. If we don’t know the past we will never understand intergenerational trauma.

 

Another common sentiment about residential schools is the following: “They didn’t know back then what we know now. They didn’t realize it was wrong” (CBC Radio, 2017). However, Dr. Cindy Blackstock, member of the Gitksan First Nation challenges this position by sharing the story about Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce. Dr. Bryce was the chief medical officer for the department of Indian Affairs and the department of immigration. In 1904, he was asked to report on the health conditions of children within the Canadian Indian residential school system in Western Canada and the Northwest Territories. When he released the final report in 1907, Bryce exposed the inhuman and unsanitary conditions of residential schools. Bryce revealed: “It suffices for us to know … that of a total of 1,537 pupils reported upon, nearly 25 per cent are dead,” and “of one school with an absolutely accurate statement, 69 per cent of ex-pupils are dead, and that everywhere the almost invariable cause of death given is tuberculosis.” He continued, “We have created a situation so dangerous to health . . . that I was often surprised that the results were not even worse.”4

The report was eventually leaked and appeared on the front page of the newspaper that is now the Ottawa Citizen, making the report public knowledge. Despite Bryce’s damning report, none of the report’s recommendations were immediately implemented.

As Cindy Blackstock passionately states, Dr. Bryce’s publicized report “puts a red hot poker stick into this myth that people in the period didn’t know any better back then.”

 

So we need to first honour the truth.

 

Once that truth is acknowledged, then Murray Sinclair’s, Chair of the TRC, message is loud and clear; he says: “Don’t feel guilty about the past, don’t feel shame, they don’t do any good at all, do something about it.”

So let’s return to the role of business. Call to action 92 suggests that as relationships grow, meaningful consultations will grow. The reverse is also true. Honest consultations will lead to relationships. The first baby steps toward partnerships can begin. The most progressive companies are those that develop an internal business strategy as it relates to Indigenous peoples. They have a procurement strategy; an employment strategy. They have benefits sharing.

Call to Action 92 calls for informed Employment decisions; it calls on corporations to investigate where to find new talent, how to design training, and partnering to support employment of indigenous people; ensure cultural sensitivity, maintain an adoptive and innovative workforce. Companies don’t have to start from scratch. Here are just a few examples of opportunities in Winnipeg. The Manitoba Construction Sector Council trains Indigenous people for jobs. Build, Inc. offers a training program for those Indigenous youth facing barriers to employment. Opportunities for Employment (OFE) is another agency that both trains and seeks employment for people, including Indigenous people. Amik provides employment services. Clayton Sandy, who is key to our Circles for Reconciliation conducts all kinds of workshops on preparing Indigenous people for employment.

Once reconciliation is on a business radar, business development decisions and community development decisions can also begin to be considered. On the business development side, those interested can being to think about how reconciliation can influence where to open new locations, how to market their business, their procurement policies, mutual development of their business and Indigenous businesses to grow market share, diversify products and service, strengthen reputations

Companies that begin to think about reconciliation can reflect on community development decisions, specifically what groups or events to sponsor, how to minimize their impact on environment, how to strengthen communities where they operate, invest in education, combine intelligence and information, and identify other opportunities for involvement.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE ON RECONCILIATION

(As an Individual; as a corporation)

Actions you can take as individuals

  1. Read the TRC’s 10 principles of reconciliation
  1. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
  1. Read the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  1. Sign a petition
  1. Attend a meeting or event
  1. Join a group such as Circles for Reconciliation
  1. Contact a politician
  1. Contact another government official
  1. Write a newspaper
  1. Form a group
  1. Become a mentor
  1. Make a donation
  1. Talk to your supervisor/employer about taking action on reconciliation
  1. Read a book about Indigenous history in Canada
  • Three examples; Thomas King, “The Inconvenient Indian”
  • Chelsea Vowel, “Indigenous Writes”
  • Richard Wagamese, “Indian Horse”
  1. Meet Me at the Bell Tower  (A meeting every Friday at 6.p.m. At the Bell Tower at 610 Selkirk. It is all about hope and positive development for youth in the North End.)

 

Actions you can take as a business

1. Host a Circle for Reconciliation

2. Have your Indigenous employees invite non-Indigenous employees to form a circle.

3. Contact the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba for a free speaker

4. Contact the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce

5. Learn about Aboriginal Skills and Employment Strategy (ASET), federal government employment support for Indigenous people

6. Learn about the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC)

7. Reach out to an Elder or Indigenous leader for advice on how to proceed or contact

Circles for Reconciliation

8. Sponsor an Indigenous event

9. Host an Indigenous celebration or event

9. Promote the naming or renaming of sites to original Indigenous names

10. Contact a business that has had success creating a partnership

11. Contact “Indigenous Works” in Saskatoon

12. Contact “Working Warriors”

13. Invite an Indigenous person to sit on a board you are on

14. Other suggestions?

1 https://indigenousworks.ca/en
3 Don Drummond and Andrew Sharpe: “Closing Indigenous Socio-Economic Gaps Key to Raising Canada’s Economic Growth, Queen’s University, Kingston: Queen’s Unviersity, posted October 2, 2017. www.csls.ca/reports/csls2017-07op_ed.pdf
4 https://fncaringsociety.com/…/Dr.%20Peter%20Henderson%20Bryce%20Information…

 

Gathering Theme: After the Circles: Practicing Solidarity and Living Reconciliation

GATHERING THEME

After the Circles:Practicing Solidarity and Living Reconciliation

Mary Kate Dennis, Heather McRae and Maya Simpson

Some non-Indigenous Canadians may struggle with the facts and experiences revealed through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Indigenous people were subject to many forms of colonization and assimilationist policies, characterized as cultural genocide, with the central element of the establishment and operation of residential schools (TRC, 2015). Fortunately, there are Canadians who wish to honour the experiences of the Indigenous survivors of residential schools and are committed to building new relationships with Indigenous people that are based upon respect and reciprocity. In today’s circle, we will look at some ways non-Indigenous people can begin to understand their unique roles and responsibilities in the lifelong journey towards reconciliation.

 

Illustrative example of Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce

Commonly, when talking about residential schools, the following sentiment it is often shared: “They didn’t know back then what we know now. They didn’t realize it was wrong” (CBC Radio, 2017). However, Cindy Blackstock, member of the Gitksan First Nation and the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, challenges this position by sharing the story about Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce. He was a physician whose work helped document the mortality rate of Indigenous children in Canadian Indian residential schools.

In 1904, Dr. Peter Bryce, the chief medical officer for the Department of Indian Affairs and Department of Immigration, was asked to report on the health conditions of children within the Canadian Indian residential school system in Western Canada and the Northwest Territories. When he released the final report in 1907, Bryce exposed the inhuman and unsanitary conditions of residential schools. Bryce revealed: “It suffices for us to know … that of a total of 1,537 pupils reported upon, nearly 25 per cent are dead,” and “of one school with an absolutely accurate statement, 69 per cent of ex-pupils are dead, and that everywhere the almost invariable cause of death given is tuberculosis.” He continued, “We have created a situation so dangerous to health . . . that I was often surprised that the results were not even worse.”

The report was eventually leaked and appeared on the front page of the newspaper that is now the Ottawa Citizen, making the report public knowledge. Despite Bryce’s damning report, none of the report’s recommendations were immediately implemented.

As Cindy Blackstock passionately states, Dr. Bryce’s publicized report “puts a red hot poker stick into this myth that people in the period didn’t know any better back then. And we really need to lift up people like Dr. Bryce, who spoke up and spoke out to save children’s lives at a time that was critical” (CBC Radio, 2017). On Dr. Bryce’s legacy, the First Nations Caring Society states, “The Story of Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce is an important part of our history and demonstrates to us the importance of speaking out for what is right and just, even when it is difficult to do so” (Wattam, 2016, p. 1).

 

Allyship Defined

Reconciliation must be grounded in the voices, experiences and aspirations of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people of Canada. Since the release of the TRC’s Final Report, many Indigenous peoples and their allies have started to talk about reconciliAction (Ubokudom, 2017). Truth-telling, empathy and listening are instrumental to reconciliation but without action, reconciliation will gradually lose meaning and become another token response to systemic injustice.

PeerNet BC states that allyship “begins when a person of privilege seeks to support a marginalized individual or group.” Allyship requires a commitment to unlearning and learning about privilege, power and oppression and involves a “life-long process of building relationships based on trust, consistency and accountability with marginalized individuals or group.”

Allyship is hard. Ally is a verb that requires action. Allyship is not an identity, nor is it a performance. Allyship is a practice. Allyship requires an ongoing commitment to working in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. Allies are not self-defined but are recognized and affirmed by Indigenous peoples. To practice solidarity, non-Indigenous people must be accountable and responsive to the voices, needs and political perspectives of Indigenous peoples (Walia, 2012). Allies must recognize how they have participated in and benefited from colonialism while working towards supporting Indigenous self-determination.

Responsibilities while practicing allyship:

  • Actively acknowledge your privileges (race, economic class, sexuality, gender, ability, religion, etc.) and openly discuss them
  • Listen more and speak less
  • Work with integrity and direct communication
  • Do your own research: Do not expect to be educated by Indigenous peoples
  • Build your capacity to receive criticism
  • Embrace the emotions that come out of allyship (discomfort, guilt, shame, etc.)
  • Acknowledge that the needs of non-Indigenous allies are secondary to those of Indigenous people with whom you seek to work
  • Do not expect awards or special recognition (PeerNetBC)

Pitfalls and Responsibilities for Allies

Two key pitfalls to avoid are taking leadership and self-identifying as an ally. From an anti-oppression perspective, meaningful support for Indigenous struggles cannot be directed by [non-Indigenous peoples] (Walia, 2012). The second principle of self-identifying as an ally highlights the importance of “building long-term relationships of accountability and never assuming or taking for granted the personal and political trust that [non-Indigenous peoples] may earn from Indigenous peoples over time” (Walia, 2012). This speaks to why an ally must be acclaimed or identified as an ally by Indigenous peoples.

Example of Allyship in Action

According to Gaa wii ji’i diyaang (2017), a collective of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples working towards reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, there are five key ways in which non-Indigenous people demonstrate their commitment to building new relationships with Indigenous peoples:

  1. Awareness: are aware that social inequities exist and are rooted in social, economic, and historical contexts related to colonization
  2. Recognition: recognize their own position within power relations and structures that uphold or disrupt inequity
  3. Positionality: work to become fully grounded in their own cultural history and how it relates to colonialism
  4. Accountability: are willing to engage in the difficult conversations around truth and reconciliation and recognize that their own mistakes and the mistakes of others are part of the learning process; they are, in fact, opportunities to grow
  5. Embodied acts: practice their active listening skills, learn about past and present colonial structures and actions through self-reflection of allyship

Questions for Dialogue

For Indigenous participants:

  1. Have you had past experiences of working with an ally?
  2. In what ways did these people demonstrate allyship?
  3. What traits does an ally need in order to work with Indigenous people?
  4. What do you need from allies to work with them in solidarity?

For non-Indigenous participants:

  1. What are some barriers for you to become an ally?
  2. In what ways have you benefitted from colonization?
  3. What skills and strategies have you used to challenge anti-Indigenous racism?
  4. What are some specific ways that you can work towards being an ally to Indigenous people?

For all participants:

  1. During our circle talk, we have used the term “non-Indigenous,” what is your definition of a non-Indigenous person? Does it include the term settler? Who is a settler?
  2. How do Canadians go about righting the historic and ongoing legacy of harms related to Indigenous people?

References and Resources

Bryce, P. H. (1907). Report on the Indian schools of Manitoba and the North West Territories. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau. Retrieved from http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/bibliography/3024.html

https://fncaringsociety.com/sites/default/files/Dr.%20Peter%20Henderson%20Bryce%20Information%20Sheet.pdf

CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning. (2017, June 2). Ottawa doctor who sounded alarm on residential schools remembered with exhibit. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/peter-bryce-exhibit-ottawa-church-residential-schools-1.4142766

Gehl, L. (n.d.). Ally Bill of Responsibilities. Retrieved January 18, 2017 from http://www.lynngehl.com/uploads/5/0/0/4/5004954/ally_bill_of_responsibilities_poster.pdf

Gaa wii ji’i diyaang (2017). Terms of Reference. University of Manitoba

Groundwork for Change website: http://www.groundworkforchange.org/

PeerNetBC (n.d). Allyship 101. Retrieved from http://www.peernetbc.com/

wordpress2017/wp-content/uploads/allyship101_printer-friendly.pdf

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015). Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future. Summary of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Walia, H. (2012). Moving Beyond a Politics of Solidarity toward a Practice of Decolonization. Organize!: Building from the Local for Global Justice, 240.

Wattam, J. (July 2016). Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce: A Story of Courage. First Nations Child & Family Caring Society. Retrieved from https://fncaringsociety.com/sites/default/files/Dr.%20Peter%20Henderson

%20Bryce%20Information%20Sheet.pdf

Ubokudom, D-A. (2017, November 15). UMSU encourages university to develop an Aboriginal language degree program. “ReconciliAction campaign to foster Truth and Reconciliation on campus”. The Manitoban. Retrieved from http://www.themanitoban.com/2017/11/umsu-encourages-university-develop-aboriginal-language-degree-program/32876/

van Dijk, T.A. (1992). Discourse and the denial of racism. Discourse & Society, 3(1), 87-118.

Gathering Theme: The Sixties Scoop

GATHERING THEME

The Sixties Scoop and the Child Welfare System

Tricia Logan

   Histories and legacies of the residential school system in Canada are intricately tied to the history of the ‘Sixties Scoop’ and the Child Welfare system that we know today.

   Cumulative failures of the residential school system influenced some changes in the late 1950s and 1960s. One major turning point occurred after changes to the Indian Act in 1951 when more power was transferred to the provinces to remove children from their families. Increasingly, children were still being taken from their homes, often without notice and apprehended by social workers inside the provincial child welfare systems. Thousands of Indigenous children were adopted out of their homes and ‘scooped’, in many cases without any prior notice to the parents or families. Children were often adopted out of the province and into the United States. There are continuing efforts today to reunite family members who were ‘scooped’ away into adoptive families. The ongoing impacts of forced separation from their parents and families are impacting individuals and extended families today.

   Many adoptive families and parents loved and cared for the children ‘scooped’ from their homes in the 1960s, 70s and 80s ‘Scoop’. There are also countless cases of children who were abused, exploited and discriminated against in their adoptive homes. While the treatment of children varied from family to family, the children are united in the shared impacts on their connections to culture, identity and languages. In addition, the Sixties Scoop and the present-day Child Welfare system for First Nations and Aboriginal children is a story of a deeply broken system. A system that is quite like the residential schools, notoriously under funded and it has a dangerously low level of support for children, workers and families. Presently, the number of children currently in foster care far exceeds the number of children who attended the residential schools at the height of the schools’ operation.

   In 2016, following a 10 year legal battle, the First Nations Caring Society won a case in front of Canada’s Human Rights tribunal. The tribunal found that the Child Welfare system for First Nations children living on Reserve is clearly discriminating against First Nations children in care and in its jurisdictional distribution of health care to First Nations communities. While the operation of the Child Welfare system has experienced changes since the 1960s, it remains a critical failure of upholding basic rights, support for health and for wellbeing of Indigenous children in Canada.

   Please see the First Nations Caring Society for additional resources and information on their advocacy work, on behalf of First Nations and Indigenous children in care.

https://fncaringsociety.com/

https://fncaringsociety.com/publications-and-resources

References

Blackstock, Cindy. 2007. ‘Residential schools: Did they really close or just morph into child welfare?’ Indigenous Law Journal, 6(1), 71-78.

Blackstock, Cindy. 2009. ‘Why Addressing the Over-Representation of First Nations Children in Care Requires New Theoretical Approaches Based on First Nations Ontology.’ Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, no. 3, vol. 6: 24-45.

Blackstock, Cindy, and Nico Trocmé. 2005. ‘Community based child welfare for Aboriginal children’. In Handbook for working with children and youth: Pathways to resilience across cultures and contexts, edited by Michael Ungar, 105-120. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Chartrand, Larry, Tricia Logan and Judy Daniels. 2006. Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Fournier, Suzanne and Ernie Crey. 1997. Stolen from Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.

Johnson, Patrick. 1983. Native Children and the Child Welfare System.Toronto: Lorimer.

Kimmelman, Edwin. 1985. No Quiet Place: Final Report to the Honourable Muriel Smith, Minister of Community Services/Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions/Placements. Winnipeg: Manitoba Community Services.

Lavell-Harvard, D. M. and Lavell, J.C. (editors). 2006. Until Our Hearts Are On The Ground: Aboriginal Mothering, Oppression, Resistance and Rebirth. Toronto: Demeter Press.

Sinclair, Raven. 2007. ‘Identity Lost and Found: Lessons from the Sixties Scoop’. First Peoples Child & Family Review. 3.1, 65-82.

Timpson, J.B. 2010. Four Decades of Child Welfare Services to Native Indians in Ontario: A Contemporary Attempt to Understand the “Sixties Scoop” in Historical Socioeconomic and Political Perspectives, D.S.W. Dissertation. Wilfred Laurier University, Faculty of Social Work.

Trocmé, Nico, Knoke, Della and Blackstock, Cindy. 2004. ‘Pathways to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in Canada’s child welfare system’. Social Service Review, 78(4), 577-601.

Closing common to all gatherings

Gathering Theme: Day Schools and Day Scholars

GATHERING THEME

Day Schools and Day Scholars

Tricia Logan

Opening common to all gatherings

The ‘Indian’ day schools in Canada are considered part of the entire system of residential school systems. The term ‘residential school’ often encompasses a number of different kinds of schools including: boarding, industrial, mission and day school, hostels, residences, TB sanatoriums and hospitals. While the legal definitions are often limiting, the full experience of the ‘residential school system’ includes a number of different kinds of schools operated by the federal government, provincial government(s) and various religious denominations. Day scholars also attended residential schools and had similar experiences but since they did not stay overnight they were also not eligible for compensation.

While majority of day schools were not ‘officially’ recognized in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), the day school system was very much part of the whole system of residential schools. Most importantly, many former students and Survivors who attended day schools had very similar or identical kinds of day-to-day and long-term experiences as Survivors who attended boarding-style residential schools.

Smaller ‘mission’ or day schools were operated across Canada and typically co-administered by either Protestant or Catholic churches, the provincial/territorial governments or in some cases, the federal government. Student attendance at day schools would often rely on the location of the school, denomination of the school and often the identity of the home community or of the children and parents. Often, Métis children attended the day schools in large numbers since many considered that Métis were the ‘responsibility’ of provincial governments. Métis often slipped into a jurisdictional gap between government administrations and their school attendance was often defined by these gaps.

Students did not stay overnight at the day schools, many were able to go home at the end of the school day, but often the conditions at the school and treatment of the children, by clergy and teachers was similar or identical to that at the residential schools. In other day schools, many children were billeted into homes or stayed at a hostel or residence while they attended the day school. In many large boarding-style residential schools ‘day scholars’ would go home at the end of the day as well but still faced the same treatment, day-to-day as the rest of the students.

These experiences vary but they are often recognized in the broad experience of the ‘residential school experience’ in Canada. Of note though, is the legal battle many day school students and day scholars still carry on with, today. The 2005 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) does not ‘officially’ recognize the experience of a majority of day school attendees. So, while many students faced the same treatment as students who attended boarding-residential schools, the Settlement Agreement did not recognize their experiences and many carry on with legal battles, today. Schedule ‘E’ of the IRSSA lists the ‘officially’ recognized schools and in order for any former attendees of residential or day schools to apply for the Common Experience Payment (CEP) or the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), their school had to be listed on the ‘official’ list. If their school did not appear, they could apply for an appeal and potentially their school could be added to the list or they would be denied compensation under the IRSSA.

Currently, Survivors and former day school attendees are still fighting legal battles for abuses they endured at the day schools and for recognition of their experiences. In individual and class action suits, day school Survivors carry on with important work for recognition and to attain the same or similar support as all Survivors of the entire residential school system.

For more information on legal action and class action suits for day scholars, please see:

http://justicefordayscholars.com/

Chartrand, Larry, Tricia Logan and Judy Daniels. 2006. Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation

 

Closing common to all gatherings

Gathering Theme: Métis Experience at Residential Schools

GATHERING THEME

Métis Experience at Residential Schools

Tricia Logan

Opening common to all gatherings

Métis children were included in the residential school system and system of ‘Indian’ day schools from the time that the schools first opened, until the closure of the last school in 1996. Along with First Nations and Inuit students, Métis attended the schools forcibly and in later years of the schools’ administration, also attended voluntarily. While many Métis Survivors share stories of similar school experiences to First Nations and Inuit students, there were often conditions around the admission of Métis students and their treatment by staff and fellow students that made their experiences quite distinct.

In the residential school era, Métis were not considered ‘Indians’ legally, under Canada’s Indian Act. They were considered the responsibility of the provincial governments and often education and health support for Métis fell into a jurisdictional gap between these levels of government. In large boarding-style residential schools, Métis were often considered ‘outsiders’ and their attendance at the schools depended on a number of different variables. At the end of the nineteenth century, Métis were cast as ‘rebellious’ and were often considered to be ‘the dispossessed’. For most of the first half of the twentieth century Métis were marginalized politically, economically and socially. Their treatment in Canadian society often mirrored their treatment in the schools and whether or not they would be taken to residential schools, mission schools, day schools, provincial schools or no schools at all.

Early in the administration of the boarding-style residential schools in Canada, the department of Indian Affairs circulated a document to schools about the ‘Admission of Halfbreeds’ into their schools. Métis or ‘Halfbreeds’ were to be considered in three classes, by the schools. Their class would determine whether or not they were to be admitted to schools. In the early years of the residential schools’ administration (1890-1920), correspondence from the Department of Indian Affairs would often cite the following ‘classes’ for Halfbreeds:

Halfbreeds may be grouped into three fairly well-defined classes.

1. Those who live, in varying degrees of conditions, the ordinary settled life of the country.

2. Those who live, in varying degrees, the Indian mode of life.

3. Those who – and they form the most unfortunate class in the community – are the illegitimate offspring of Indian women, and of whom white men are not the begetters.

Those of the first class make no claim upon the Government of the Dominion for

the education of their children; nor has any such claim as far as the knowledge of the undersigned goes been made on their behalf. The third class are entitled to participate in the benefits of the Indian schools; and in so far as the afore quoted … [w]hen Indian Treaties are made the illegitimate children … of Indian treaty women were excluded and payment of their annuity money for them on their behalf was refused. That policy appears to have been adopted to discourage illegitimate breeding. As to the second class of Halfbreed the undersigned at once admit that they present a difficult educational problem, but the very difficulty effects a strong reason against drawing a hard and fast line such as it drawn. This second class of Halfbreeds maybe divided into three groups:

1. Those who live apart from Indians but follow somewhat Indian mode of life

2. Those who live in the vicinity of Indian Reserves

3. [Those who] [l]ive on the Reserves

(PAM, RG10, vol. 6039, file 160-1, part 1)

Many Métis still attended outside of this class system for various reasons. Occasionally, skin colour would influence whether or not a student looked more or less ‘Indian’ to the administrators of the school. Additionally, many Métis families were Catholic families and they would be admitted into residential schools or day schools according to the denomination of the schools operating the school. Admission to schools often appeared to be ad-hoc, or later on, taken on a case-by-case basis.

Social, political and economic factors also influenced whether or not school officials, RCMP or clergy would take Métis children from a specific family or community to a residential school. Métis fell into a jurisdictional gap and lived hidden lives in many parts of Canada. Métis leader Malcolm Norris once said about the Métis and education:

I have always understood that it was against the law not to send the children to school, and Inspectors are maintained for that very purpose, but unfortunately our people have been discriminated against, and to such an extent, that even though they may pay taxes, no steps are taken by the authorities to see that their children are sent to school, apparently the Half-breed is not worth caring about. (TRC, 2016, p. 26)

Métis political resistance grew in the later half of the twentieth century and their campaigns advocated strongly for better education for Métis communities. They often cited these government and church failings between the systems that left Métis falling through the cracks.

Métis experiences at residential school

In a school system built originally as a ‘solution’ to the ‘Indian Problem’ and operated by Indian Affairs, Métis were outside of federal responsibility and had been socially and politically relegated to the margins of Canadian society. Whether century. Since they sometimes attended residential schools without official federal funding, they were not provided with food, access to washrooms or school uniforms like the rest of the students. In schools already notorious for their legacies of neglect and abuse, excluding students based on ‘class’ structure and government-constructed identities created added pressures on children at the schools. Whether

that move was literal or metaphorical, Métis existed in the margins of society and the road allowances 1of non-Indigenous communities for several decades of the 20th A brief addition to the seven volumes of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada is a history of Métis experiences at residential school. One of the stories included in the report, from a Métis student describes bullying by other students:

When attending the Pine Creek residential school in Manitoba, Raphael Ironstand, a boy of mixed descent who had been raised in a First Nations community, was bullied by Cree students. The Crees surrounded me, staring at me with hatred in their eyes, as again they called me ‘Monias,’ while telling me the school was for Indians only. I tried to tell them I was not a Monias, which I now knew meant white man, but a real Indian. That triggered their attack, in unison. I was kicked, punched, bitten, and my hair was pulled out by the roots. My clothes were also shredded, but the Crees suddenly disappeared, leaving me lying on the ground, bleeding and bruised. Although the sisters had showed little sympathy at the time, Ironstand had a very special memory of a nun who showed him kindness. I poured out my story to this understanding nun about my confused feelings, being a non-person with white skin, even though I was an Indian. At that she put her arm around me and assured me that I was a very important person to her, which immediately raised my self-esteem. It was the first time since I came to the school that anyone had touched me without punishing or beating me. As she ushered me out of the door, she stopped and gave me a hug, which made me feel warm all over. Such shows of affection were rare. Even if they developed close friendships, most students felt unloved. (TRC, 2016, p. 53)

Métis Survivors often described feeling bullied by fellow students, members of staff and their communities when they returned home from residential school. In some places, Métis were often cast as ‘worse off than Indians’ or because they were Halfbreeds, they were considered by others to be less than either one of their ‘halves’.

Inside Métis communities, the myths and stereotypes about the Métis damaged many, but also fuelled centuries of resistance and resurgence. Métis carried on with their political, legal and social structures, even hidden and often while they were being sternly discriminated against. Métis languages also came under threat during residential school eras and through ongoing colonialism in Canada. Métis languages and cultures have experienced resurgence and Métis often lead movements towards ongoing resistance and reconciliation in Canada. Métis, First Nations and Inuit across Canada survived these colonial structures and school systems. Their times in schools included struggles but they undoubtedly included strength, as well.

Métis were not officially included in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) and many feel left out in this contemporary era of apology, compensation and reconciliation. Many attended day schools and schools that were not included in the official settlement agreement. Métis communities still face barriers placed up by government definitions and imposed identities. Métis communities will face the barriers as they always have though, and continue to re-define, maintain their own identities and rely on the unquestionable strength of their communities.

For additional stories about Métis experiences, or for more information please see:

Canada’s Residential Schools: The Métis Experience, Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2016

http://nctr.ca/assets/reports/Final%20Reports/Volume_3_M%C3%A9tis_English_Web.pdf

Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools, Larry Chartrand, Tricia Logan and Judy Daniels, 2006

http://www.ahf.ca/downloads/metiseweb.pdf

References

Provincial Archives of Manitoba, (PAM, RG10, vol. 6039, file 160-1, part 1)

Barkwell, Lawrence J., Leah Dorian and D.R. Préfontaine. 1999. Resources for Métis researchers. Winnipeg and Saskatoon: Louis Riel Institute of the Manitoba Métis Federation and Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research.

Barkwell, Lawrence J., Leah Dorian and D.R. Préfontaine (eds.) 2001. Métis Legacy: A Métis Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Winnipeg, MB: Pemmican Publications Inc.

Daniels, Judy D. 2003. Ancestral Pain: Métis Memories of Residential School Project. Edmonton, AB: Métis Nation of Alberta.

Chartrand, Larry, Tricia Logan and Judy Daniels. 2006. Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2016. Canada’s Residential Schools: The Métis Experience. Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press.

1 “The Road Allowance People were the Métis, who, without a homeland, were forced to build homes and communities on the crown land known as “road allowance” land set aside for a highway. They lived a precarious existence, welcome neither in white settlements nor allowed to live on Treaty land. The Crown land, of course, could be appropriated or developed at any time; people were often burned out of their homes or otherwise forced to move.” “The Road Allowance People,” by Carolyn Pogue, United Church Observer, May, 2013.

Gathering Theme: The Justice System

GATHERING THEME

The Justice System

Kate Kehler
Maraleigh Short

Opening common to all gatherings

The criminal justice system in Canada and Manitoba is primarily based on the European adversarial model. The crown attorney seeks to prosecute on behalf of the government while the defense attorney works to discredit the Crown’s arguments. The Crown’s role is to do what is best for society as a whole, not seek revenge for an individual. However, day to day reality is such that many Crown attorneys seek the strictest punishment they think they can get, and the defense lawyers just try to mitigate that. Often this results in a plea bargain – a joint submission that the judge then accepts. In Manitoba, courts today are so backlogged with procedural matters that resolving cases has seemingly become more important than resolving them well. It is often so rushed that the accused can be asked to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives in cramped little rooms, just minutes before going into court.

The Crown does not lay charges. The police do that. However it is up to the Crown to decide which charges to pursue. The Crown is not supposed to pursue a charge they are not convinced they can prove beyond doubt. However, Crown attorneys routinely pursue charges that are only ‘triable’. The fear here is that someone who has spent months incarcerated prior to trial, if promised immediate release given time served, will just plead guilty and no real resolution will have been achieved.

Remand and bail

Manitoba continues to be the province that holds the most people for the longest period of time on pre-sentenced (or remand) status. On any given day, about 70% of the people we have in custody are awaiting trial or sentencing.

The wealthier amongst us can pretty well count on getting bail because we are viewed as low risk and can afford a lawyer or afford to borrow to hire one. People in poverty may or may not have a stable home or job and have to rely on the chronically underfunded legal aid system. The perceived risks in both this instability and lack of advocacy mean they are more often than not denied bail.

To the average person it must seem that we have jails and prisons overflowing with very dangerous individuals. This is not the case. Most people in our provincial jails are there for breaches of bail or probation conditions, and not for committing a new crime. Most front line workers and even some judges complain about the number of conditions recommended and imposed on people as simply setting them up to fail.

Here are just some of what we know about who we currently have incarcerated in Canada with some Manitoba specific statistics:

  • The adult non-Indigenous population in jail has been decreasing steadily, while the Indigenous (a younger demographic) population has increased dramatically. Indigenous peoples represent about 4% of the total population, but about 25% of those we incarcerate.

  • There has been an increase of 112% in the incarceration of Indigenous women in recent years. In the prison for women in Headingly, 8 out of 10 inmates are Indigenous.

  • In Canada, you are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated at some point in your life if you are Indigenous.

  • 90% of the 11,000 children in care in Manitoba are Indigenous,

  • 65% of the men in Stony Mountain Penitentiary were children in care.

  • 80% of those we incarcerate grew up in poverty and lack a grade 12 education.

Being Indigenous and poor is the most direct path to prison. Canadians worry about a two-tier health system? We have long had a two-tier justice system.

Poverty and Crime

Let’s look more closely at the link between poverty and crime. Former Conservative Senator Hugh Segal said, given that 80% statistic above “if crime abatement is the goal then it is time that all Canadians and their governments got tough on poverty.” Many will say that they know lots of people who have grown up in and/or continue to struggle in poverty but have never committed a crime. Of course the majority don’t commit crime. They are in fact more likely to be the victims of crime given that they are forced to live in high crime areas due to the lack of truly affordable housing elsewhere. Furthermore, that is their community so they may not want to leave.

In Manitoba, one in three children live in poverty. Winnipeg Harvest shares food with nearly 62,000 Manitobans a month, through emergency food programs across the province. Of these, more than 26,000 are children and more than 4,000 of them are under the age of 2.

Harvest also reports that those growing up in poverty were far more likely to be in ill health and die before the age of 65, than those who do not.

When we allow people to be raised in desperate situations, we should not be surprised if some become desperate. Children know when they are being left behind or left out. The effects of that knowledge has lasting impact. Crisis thinking and impulse decision making becomes all too easily entrenched.

Our current justice system relies on incarceration to rehabilitate individuals who commit crime.

What is actually happening in our jails is another matter .The vast majority of resources simply go to keeping staff and inmates alike physically safe. Rehabilitative programing resources are scarce. Headingly’s workshop rooms were converted to provide more beds. The use of solitary confinement as a security measure remains a huge issue. The Government of Manitoba and Justice Department recently changed terminology. They stopped calling the provincial institutions “jails” and renamed them “correctional centres”. It was meant to highlight the importance of rehabilitation. However, the reality is that people come out not corrected, but institutionalized.

Institutionalization creates its own consequences. Taking decision making out of people’s hands creates dependency. People lose the ability to stay on a schedule and manage what little money they may have properly. This culture of dependency, added to a criminal record, keeps people from establishing stable living conditions and employment.

When we incarcerate people we stop any progress they may have made. If they had a job or place to live, that is gone. If they are a woman with kids, those kids usually end up in government care. The disruption and cost to us all is massive.

It costs three times as much to incarcerate a person than it does to keep them supported in the community. These costs do not even include police, court and Child and Family Services’ costs.

The TRC highlights the need for child and family service, education and justice reform.

Restorative justice

Restorative Justice is the traditional justice system for many Indigenous peoples. It also has the added benefit of being the form of justice for many of our newcomer communities who are also becoming one of the fastest rising populations caught up in our justice system for much the same reasons; trauma, poverty, colonization through violence and war.

Restorative Justice approaches crime and harm as an imbalance that needs to be corrected.

It ensures that the person who committed the harm is accountable, takes responsibility for and works to repair the harm.

When possible, it allows for direct restitution to the person harmed, but also provides more peace to these victims as they get a better understanding of the whys of what was done to them. Victims of crime who engage in restorative justice processes report much higher levels of satisfaction than those who go through our current system.

Restorative Justice can also come into play at various stages in the system. It can divert one out of the system before all of the ill effects of incarceration makes matters worse. But it has also been used after a sentence has been served. Some family members of murder victims have received peace of mind when meeting with those who have served their sentence and have ‘owned’ what they have done.

Contrary to the popular perception that restorative justice is easier than incarceration and tantamount to ‘thug hugging’, most perpetrators who go through the process say it is much harder to ‘own-up’ to their failings and face the ones they harmed than it is to sit in a jail cell and focus on their own suffering, rather than what they caused.

Most importantly, by a careful examination of the incident, the context of the crime is better understood by the community and the community gains a better understanding of how it can address the root cause of the imbalance.

Discussion; passing the talking stick

Closing common to all gatherings

Gathering Theme: Métis Struggles for Land

GATHERING THEME

Métis Struggles for Land

Author: Dr. Fiola

Red River Resistance: Provisional Government & Manitoba Act (1870)

Métis families were established in the region where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers converge (“The Forks,” Winnipeg), by the time the Selkirk Settlers arrived in 1812. French and Métis voyageurs retired there with their families when their fur trade contracts expired. Here, the Métis Nation would emerge shortly.

In 1670, King Charles II of England gave the HBC an exclusive trade monopoly over Rupert’s Land (Hudson’s Bay drainage). In 1869, the HBC transferred Rupert’s Land to Canada. Surveyors arrived in Red River ‒ where the Métis formed a majority ‒ to divide the land without consultation. Fearing an influx of settlers, Louis Riel and others stopped surveyors in October 1869; so began the Red River Resistance.

Métis, and others, politically organized to protect their land. The Comité National des Métis was formed in December 1869 with John Bruce as president and Riel as secretary. In March 1870, Bruce would become president of the provisional government; Riel would eventually become president. The provisional government issued a “Declaration of the People of Rupert’s Land and the North-West,” rejecting Canada’s authority over the North-West, asserting the legitimacy of their provisional government, and inviting Canada to negotiate the region into confederation. Since Canada had yet to establish formal government in Red River, the provisional government became the legal government in the area. Ottawa begrudgingly recognized this and began negotiations.

The provisional government drew up a bill of rights ‒ terms by which they would agree to confederation ‒ and sent three representatives to Ottawa to negotiate. The bill of rights would become the List of Rights which secured the confederation of Manitoba as the fifth province of Canada via the Manitoba Act (1870). The list aimed to secure Métis land use, rights, and customs. Section 31 of the Act reserved 1.4 million acres of land for Métis families in the new province; Section 32 secured land rights for already established inhabitants (including white farmers).

Only the British Parliament could legally amend the Manitoba Act; however, the Canadian government ignored this and passed amendments limiting eligibility for sections 31 and 32. These included Eurocentric ideas of a “proper” home, garden size, and fence; many Métis lived in shacks without fences and were sometimes bison hunting during harvest time. Métis faced backlash from English Canada for confederating a province, and because a Métis tribunal condemned Orangeman Thomas Scott to death by firing squad in March of 1870.

Prime Minister John A. Macdonald sent Colonel Wolseley and the Red River Expeditionary Forces to ensure the transition from a provisional to a provincial government. For two years, they beat Métis men, raped Métis women, established saloons which increased alcohol-related violence, and prevented Métis from voting. Scrip, a federal land grant system, also cheated many Métis from their land (more below). Métis began to flee from Manitoba.

North-West Resistance (1885) and The Forgotten Years

Métis established themselves in communities further west (St. Laurent, Batoche, SK). Settlers followed and again Métis feared they would lose their land. They formed a second provisional government with local Métis leader, Gabriel Dumont, assuming the role of Adjutant General. Petitions sent to Ottawa were ignored. Instead, Macdonald used the new railway to send militia to suppress the Métis. The series of battles that ensued became known as the North-West Resistance (1885). After their defeat, the Métis scattered again. Some stayed and faced oppression on the prairies, others moved to British Columbia, to the Northwest Territories, and into the northern United States ‒ these were roughly the boundaries of the historic Métis Nation; many had trade and kinship relationships therein.

After 1885, the Métis entered a period of repression known as “The Forgotten Years.” Riel was executed and the Métis experienced severe poverty, unemployment, and racism; many become known as “Road Allowance People.” The only places left for Métis to live were along road allowances set aside for future buildings, roads, railway. Families moved every time construction crews arrived; community cohesion suffered. Many Métis denied their Indigenous identity. Survival trumped passing on cultural knowledge. Repression began to lift only after WWI.

Historic Treaties and Scrip

Meanwhile, the Canadian government was extinguishing Aboriginal title (rights) to land via treaties and scrip. One year after the Manitoba Act, the government began signing the Numbered Treaties. Treaty 3 is the only historic treaty that Métis were permitted to enter as a collective. Otherwise, only individual Métis were accepted. Initially, one could choose treaty or scrip; however, Métis faced increasing pressure to take the one-time scrip as it let the government off the hook for annuities. Many First Nations chiefs, like Shingwauk, requested that Métis enter treaty. Treaty commissioners were instructed to say no – the government denied Métis indigeneity to reduce the number of people entering treaty.

In Manitoba, scrip was supposed to distribute the 1.4 million acres promised to the Métis. This lottery system of land allotment issued coupons to individuals for 160 or 240 acres or dollars. Eurocentric amendments by the federal government regarding what constituted a “proper” house, fence, garden size drastically reduced those who were eligible. The system was slow (scrip wasn’t issued until 1876), disorganized, confusing (many Métis were illiterate and spoke Indigenous languages but instructions were in English/French), and fraud was rampant. Residence patterns were ignored and split up families. Many sold their scrip for a pittance; most did not receive their entitled land ‒ many left Manitoba.

Phases two and three of Métis scrip occurred in the North-West (Saskatchewan and Alberta) and during the signing of Treaties 8 and 10 (Alberta, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan), respectively. Scrip coupons did not specify that they were meant to permanently extinguish Aboriginal title.

Métis Settlements & Modern Treaties

Métis lobbying in Alberta led to the Métis Population Betterment Act (1939) which created 12 Métis colonies (four dissolved in the 1950s). This is the only constitutionally-protected Métis land base in Canada. Métis own their land in fee simple (strongest land right) and have a measure of self-government.

Since 1975, Indigenous peoples have been signing modern treaties (comprehensive land claims) with Canada. There are currently 100 treaty negotiation tables across Canada with dozens of treaties in various stages of negotiation; on average it takes 15 years to finalize a treaty. Some of these treaties include a self-government clause. Self-government agreements are slowly gaining traction. A few of these agreements have fee simple ownership. With exceptions in the north, the government refuses to negotiate treaties and self-government agreements with the Métis.

Courts & Legislation

In 1982, Canada patriated its constitution and included section 35 which identifies the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit), and states that Aboriginal/treaty rights must be honoured. The terms Métis and Aboriginal rights were not defined; the courts are defining these. Government refuses to negotiate unless they are forced to in court.

In 2013, the Supreme Court declared that the Crown failed when distributing the 1.4 million acres promised in the Manitoba Act (MMF v Canada). In May 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between President David Chartrand of the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) and Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, to advance reconciliation. The MMF’s goal is to sign a modern treaty with Canada including a trust fund, lands for collective use, and programs, supports and initiatives to benefit Manitoba Métis.

In July 2016, Thomas Issac, Ministerial Special Representative for Métis rights, issued his final report and recommendations regarding section 35 Métis rights, and implementation of the MMF v Canada land claim. Isaac asserted that rights-bearing Métis communities have outstanding land claims from Ontario westward that must be negotiated; that First Nations treaty rights should not trump Métis rights; and that Canada should accept unique forms of Métis self-government. He urged the government to develop a Framework Agreement with the MMF to settle the 1870 land claim. Formal negotiations have not begun.

In 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Métis (and non-status Indians) are “Indians” in section 91(24) of the Constitution Act (1867) which states that the federal government has jurisdiction over “Indians and lands reserved for Indians” (Daniels v Canada). Like in MMF v Canada, remediation/compensation was not awarded; however, it opens the doors to federal assistance for Métis like that enjoyed by First Nations.

In Powley v Canada (2003), the Supreme Court recognized that Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario is a historic Métis community with section 35 Métis rights. This case devised the “Powley Test” to define what constitutes Métis rights and who is entitled to them. Courts are taking a case-by-case approach; a ruling in one case does not necessarily apply to other Métis communities.

Nonetheless, Métis people are maintaining relationships with their home territories. Many Indigenous peoples are moving from rural to urban locations, yet remaining connected to their communities/land through celebrating culture days, pursuing subsistence activities, and reconnecting with land through ceremonies. Métis are not waiting for government/court assistance; we push forward and continue nurturing our relationships with land.

References – Métis Struggles for Land

Adams, Howard. 1989. Prison of Grass: Canada from a Native Point of View. Calgary: Fifth House Publishers.

Augustus, Camie. 2008. “Métis Scrip.” Our Legacy. University of Saskatchewan Archives. Accessed February 13, 2017. http://scaa.sk.ca/ourlegacy/exhibit_scrip.

Barkwell, Lawrence, ed. 2002. Métis Rights and Land Claims: An Annotated Bibliography. Winnipeg: Louis Riel Institute.

Chartrand, Paul, and John Giokas. 2002. Who Are the Métis? A Review of the Law and Policy. In Who Are Canadas Aboriginal Peoples? Recognition, Definition, and Jurisdiction, edited by Paul Chartrand, 268-304. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing.

Daniels v. Canada. 2016. Judgements of the Supreme Court of Canada. Accessed February 13, 2017. https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/15858/index.do

Fillmore, W. P. 1978. “Half-Breed Scrip.” In The Other Natives: The-Les Métis, edited by Antoine Lussier, and D. Bruce Sealey, 31-36. Vol. 2. Winnipeg: Manitoba Métis Federation Press.

Fiola, Chantal. 2015. “Re-Kindling the Sacred Fire: Métis Identity, Anishinaabe Spirituality and Identity.” Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2008. Treaty 3 between Her Majesty the Queen and the Saulteaux Tribe of the Ojibbeway [sic] Indians at the Northwest Angle on the Lake of the Woods with Adhesions (1875). Accessed February 13, 2017. http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028675.

Milne, Brad. 1995. “The Historiography of Métis Land Dispersal, 1870-1890.” Manitoba History, no. 30: 30-41.

MMF (Manitoba Métis Federation) v Canada (Attorney General). 2013. Judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada. Accessed February 13, 2017. http://scc.lexum.org/decisia-scc-csc/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/12888/index.do.

Murray, Jeffrey S. 1993. Métis Scrip Records – Foundation for a New Beginning. The Archivist 20(1): 12-14.

Peterson, Jacqueline, and Jennifer S. H. Brown, eds. 1985. The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Métis in North America. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

R. v. Powley. 2003. Judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada. Accessed February 13, 2017. https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/

Gathering Theme: Métis Identity and Nationhood

GATHERING THEME

Métis Identity and Nationhood

Author: Chuck Bourgeois

Métis identity and Nationhood are often discussed together, but are best understood as two closely related, yet separate and distinct concepts. Métis identity refers to the ways in which a person identifies as Métis, and the practices, beliefs, and history that make up this identity. Métis identity is an intensely personal experience, and as such, the way it is understood can vary greatly from one person to the next. Métis Nationhood, on the other hand, is the result of very specific historical events, and in modern times, is the basis for the political relationship certain Métis organizations share with the federal and provincial governments in Canada. While there are differing views on the subject, this discussion will focus on the Red River Métis who have continuously occupied their traditional territory on the prairies, and who developed a distinct language, culture, and political structure which rose to prominence during the 19th century.

Métis Nationhood

The story of the Métis Nation predates the confederation of Canada by at least a century. Throughout what are now known as the Prairie Provinces, early European settlers intermarried with women from primarily Cree, Ojibway, and Nakota groups as the fur trade spread throughout the continent. Many of the children from these unions learned the cultures of both parents, and as a result, they became very active in the fur trade as interpreters, voyageurs, buffalo hunters, and trading post factors. A number of significant historical events led Métis people to develop a robust political awareness, and to understand themselves as a Nation rather than simply as a ‘cultural group’. During the Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816, Métis fighters were the first to fly the infinity flag that is still used as a national symbol today. The Métis were also members of an all-Indigenous political alliance known as the Iron Confederacy which was active in the mid to late 1800s on the central plains. The Iron Confederacy included Cree, Nakota, Assiniboine and other Indigenous groups who negotiated treaties among themselves, and fought together to defend their land and resources which were increasingly threatened by European settlement. The Métis, however, are best known for the events which led to the Red River Resistance in 1869 and the Battle of Batoche in 1885. During these conflicts, the Métis established a provisional government, elected Louis Riel as their representative into the House of Commons, negotiated Manitoba into Confederation, and consistently refused to be governed by the new Canadian Federal Government and its laws.

The history of the Métis Nation, and all its conflicts, victories and adventures spans centuries, and is the subject of much debate and study. It cannot be denied, however, that Métis people organized themselves politically long before Canada became a country. Their governance style and political structure evolved during the great buffalo hunts of the nineteenth century. At their peak, these hunts consisted of over a thousand Red River carts, included hunters and families from several different Indigenous groups, and were strictly regulated by distinct laws. At the time, there was no other political organization that even came close to bringing together such a large and diverse group in such a cohesive way. Before each hunt, the hunters elected a chief, several captains, and discussed their travel route until a consensus was reached. Upon their return, the chief and captains would step down from their positions, and the whole process would begin anew at the outset of each hunt. This allowed for a very fluid, and democratic approach to leadership and governance. Indeed, political organizing was an integral part of Métis culture long before confederation.

During the Red River Resistance, the Métis negotiated with the federal government – not as a special interest group, or a as Canadian citizens – but as a distinct Nation, with its own representative body, political structure, and territory. Today, the Métis continue to hold a unique space in Canadian politics, and have been successful in having their rights recognized through a number of landmark court cases.

There are currently five provincial, and one national political organization which represent the interests of Métis people. They are; the Métis Nation of Ontario, the Manitoba Métis Federation, the Métis Nation – Saskatchewan, the Métis Nation of Alberta and the Métis Nation British Columbia. Each of these is represented at the national level by the Métis National Council. Membership requirements are determined by each organization, but generally follow similar protocols. The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), for example, requires individuals to self-identify as Métis, to show an ancestral connection to an historic Métis community, and to be accepted by the contemporary Manitoba Métis Community. Citizens of the Manitoba Métis Federation benefit from training and employment programs, harvesting rights, funding for education and small businesses, and other services managed by the MMF.

One of main differences between historic and contemporary expressions of

Métis Nationhood is that while Métis people historically fought for independence from the Canadian state, today, the Métis Nation exists as a part of Canada, and many Métis people consider themselves to be Canadian citizens.

Métis Identity

Contemporary Métis identity isn’t so easily defined, or understood. Seeking membership in one of the provincial representative organizations is an easy first step for many individuals, but while this provides a political identity, it does little for those of us who seek a deeper understanding of what it means to be a proud Métis person in today’s world.

Our ancestors benefitted from a vibrant and intensely unique culture. Among other characteristics, their clothes, their skill at buffalo hunting, their beading patterns, and the languages they spoke, gave early Métis people a deep sense of pride, and a distinct identity. However, the Métis experienced severe hardships and discrimination during the colonization of Canada and well into the twentieth century. Generations grew up either ashamed of being Métis, or completely unaware of their cultural heritage. Some would argue that Métis still have not fully recovered from the many injustices they endured. In 1885, Louis Riel prophesized that his people would sleep for a hundred years, but would then be reawakened by our artists, and begin to feel pride again. In many ways, his prophecy has come to pass. But our journey has not been easy.

Many people understand the term Métis as a racial characteristic; a way of describing people of mixed ancestry. Unfortunately, however, contemporary Métis people in Canada often have difficulty getting out from under this outdated racial stereotype. This is due, in part, to longstanding federal policies which have sought to discourage the Métis from asserting rights, or defending land claims as Indigenous peoples. A Métis person is often asked; “which one of your parents is Indigenous”, or “how much Indian are you? half?, a quarter?, an eighth?” Questions like these set up two points of reference: white or European on one end; and Indigenous on the other. Métis identity becomes an awkward space that is stuck somewhere in between these two points. This obsession with race – and the associated stigmas of skin color and racial ‘purity’ – is a pathology we have inherited from our colonial past. It was not that long ago that the Métis were simply known as Half-Breeds. The mixed race stereotype automatically suggests that someone is ‘less than’, not fully one or the other. What many Métis people today are now realizing, is that their racial make-up doesn’t tell them much about who they are. Métis identity simply cannot be measured through blood quantum, or by counting how many Indigenous relatives we have in our family trees. These issues lead to some very complex questions. If we no longer live in the cultural environment our ancestors lived in, and if our distinct histories and political affiliations are only small parts of what makes us who we are; then what, exactly, makes a person Métis?

To some, a Métis person is someone who displays certain cultural traits – they wear sashes, dance the Red River Jig, play the fiddle, and participate in events like the Festival du Voyageur. But these are only external symbols representative of much deeper experiences. An Elder once said that trying to understand Métis identity is like trying to catch a moving train. Métis people in Canada today are constantly recreating their identities in new and powerful ways.

Many of us are rebuilding relationships with our First Nations relatives, and acknowledging the destructive impact colonization has had on our families. Others are building vibrant connections to their ancestry by learning an Indigenous language, or by participating in traditional ceremonies. Genealogical research also serves as a strong foundation for building Métis identity. It is not uncommon to discover that one or several of our direct ancestors participated in the great buffalo hunts, fought with Louis Riel, or founded one of the many Métis communities still in existence today. The challenge is to find creative ways to express our traditional understandings and worldviews in modern contexts. As contemporary Métis people, we must do more than inherit the legacy of our diverse and complex history; we must also contribute to this legacy by constantly renewing and re-visioning our identities.

In this sense, it is best not to think of Métis identity as a fixed set of characteristics as laid out by political or legal definitions. Métis people are here today because of the strength, and resolve of our ancestors who fought to protect their way of life for their grandchildren, and great grandchildren. In many ways, we too are now engaged in a struggle. Métis identity must be defined by the people who live by it, not by the organizations who represent us, or the colonies that have sprung up around us. This is what we, in turn, will pass on to our children, to ensure that they too will be proud to call themselves Métis for generations to come.

 

References

Adams, H. (1999). Tortured people: the politics of colonization. Penticton, BC: Theytus Books Ltd.

 

Andersen, C. (2015). “Métis”: race, recognition, and the struggle for indigenous peoplehood. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Ens, G. J., & Sawchuk, J. (2016). From new peoples to new nations aspects of Métis history and identity from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

 

Fiola, C. (2015). Rekindling the sacred fire: Métis ancestry and Anishinaabe spirituality. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.

Vowel, C. (2016). Indigenous writes: a guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in Canada. Winnipeg: HighWater Press.

 

  • Manitoba Métis Federation:

http://www.mmf.mb.ca/

  • Métis National Council :

http://www.metisnation.ca/

 

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